Initially backed by the likes of Verizon and AT&T, a decline in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an untimely demise

When considering the telecoms industry through the lens of the coronavirus pandemic, many have commented on the industry’s resilience. With networks holding up well under the pressure of work from home, you could be forgiven for thinking that the industry would perform well under the strain of the pandemic.
However, the reality of the economic impact of the coronavirus on the telecoms industry is only slowly becoming apparent. The economic uncertainty surrounding the crisis has made recent financial statements from major operators stark reading, with many recording a significant decline in revenue. 
But it may, in fact, be the vendors who are suffering most at the hands of the pandemic.
Yesterday, open source software defined network (SDN) vendor Lumina Networks, announced that it was beginning the process of shutting down the business.
Founded in 2017 and backed by the likes of Verizon and AT&T, Lumina was poised to be a rising star in the world of open source SDN architecture, which was expected to have a growing following in the operator ecosystem in the coming years. However, despite the growing importance of SDN and the many positives that come from open source technology – such as avoiding being ‘locked in’ to a particular vendor – revenue has failed to materialise for Lumina.
“The switch to open source did not take place at a pace anywhere close to the speed that would enable us to operate and grow our business, despite commitments from many to the contrary,” said the company in a statement. “We have also found that COVID-19 has actually redirected funds away from automation projects and into building-out raw infrastructure, further delaying adoption.”
Lumina’s experience here is unlikely to be an anomaly. The vendor ecosystem is a ruthless place, dominated by a handful of major players that make it very hard for smaller innovators to break through. With the uncertain economic realities of the pandemic knocking on the door for operators, it seems it is simply easier to allow themselves to be locked in to the end-to-end solutions of these vendor giants than to fully commit to newcomers, especially in the open source space.
Open source SDN tech may well be the future of the telecoms industry, but the coronavirus may have operators thinking twice about whether to take the risk.  
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